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Sunday, Mar 29, 2015

Nobody up in arms


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BROOKSVILLE - If Stag Arms takes the county administrator's offer to relocate here, the firearms manufacturer won't find the same resistance the company is currently experiencing in Connecticut.

Because of new restrictive gun control restrictions imposed there following the Sandy Hook school massacre, many of that state's top firearms makers have set their sights on other regions to do business.

Hernando County Administrator Len Sossamon this week fired off a letter to Stag Arms CEO to consider the county's industrial park as an ideal spot.

President Obama has made gun control a major initiative following the elementary school shootings and the Democratic Party has pushed to enact better controls on gun sales and ownership.

But Steve Zeledon, chairman of the Hernando County Democratic Executive Committee, said there is a difference in gun control and gun manufacturing.

"The number one item is jobs," Zeledon said. "We have to improve the economy of Hernando County."

Zeledon believes he speaks for the majority of Democrats and progressives in Hernando County by saying he has no problem trying to attract a major firearms manufacturer to the local airport industrial park.

"Gun control is important and we have to have gun control," Zeledon said. "But that doesn't impact in any way the manufacture of these items."

Zeledon said the sale of guns should be regulated as stringently as car ownership. In the same way government demands someone purchase a license to drive a vehicle, it should also be more thorough in making sure people who buy guns are properly screened and carry a registration, he said.

Democratic County Commissioner Diane Rowden said she is not a proponent of high-powered weapons but believes Stag Arms would boost the local economy.

"They're going to build them no matter what," Rowden said. "It's not whether I like guns or I don't like guns. "It's manufacturing and they're going to go someplace. If they can come to Hernando County, I don't have a problem with that."

Rowden said perhaps a representative of the company could be a guest speaker at some of the local schools and discuss gun safety and responsibility

Rowden said Hernando County would be ideal for Stag Arms because it wouldn't have to pay a state income tax and it would receive a tax break under legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

The new law, which goes into effect starting April 2014, will exempt manufacturers from paying the 6 percent sales tax on new equipment.

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County Commission Chairman Dave Russell said the industrial park has been home to weapons parts manufacturers for years. So wooing a company that makes assault rifles and other guns is no big deal, he said.

"This is nothing new," Russell said. "And frankly, this is a good solid business that certainly would complement our activities here in Hernando County."

Based in New Britain, Conn., Stag Arms employs about 25 people and intends to expand to more than 100.

The company has already received an offer to move to Horry County, S.C.

But Sossamon, in a letter to the company's CEO, pitched the benefits of Hernando County and said that while he appreciates his decision to "look for a friendlier environment," he believes Hernando County fits the bill.

(352) 544-5290

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